I had a great time at the 2017 Archives Association of Ontario conference last week. If you’re interested in the talk Danielle Robichaud and I gave relating to Wikipedia, archives, and reconciliation work our slides are now online.
It was great to meet Danielle in person (and yay for twitter connecting us virtually long before this conference). Many thanks to all who came to our talk. If you have questions relating to our presentation, using Wikipedia in archives, or Wikipedia editing as reconciliation work feel free to reach out to either Danielle or I.
Last year I wrote a few posts for Canada’s History education section on their website. However because of website revamps some of that content was delayed in getting posted. My second piece “Who was Brian Vallée?” is now available on their site.
This piece talks about Brian Vallée as an award winning author, journalist, film producer and Vallée’s work to raise awareness about domestic violence. It also discusses different forms outreach to building awareness about the Brian Vallée’s life and his fonds held at Algoma University. Brian Vallée’s lack of digital presence was one of the reason I initially became involved in editing Wikipedia – so it was nice to revisit and think about different forms of community and digital outreach.
As part of Orientation Week at AlgomaU students, staff, faculty and community members were invited to participate in the KAIROS blanket exercise. Originally developed in the 1990s as a response to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples the blanket exercise is a participatory teaching too that invites participants to learn about Canadian history from an Indigenous perspective. The exercise has been updated since the 1990s to include information on more recent events such as Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Shannon’s Dream.
The exercise teaches about the impacts of colonialism, the loss of Indigenous land, residential schools, the sixties scoop, and numerous other facets of Canadian history that are not often taught in a classroom setting. The visual representation of Turtle Island through the use of blankets, the physical act of participants representing Indigenous people and watching the spacial and visceral damage that is caused by colonialism is a really moving and had a huge impact on participants.
This is a very unique teaching tool that can be scaled to different age groups and number of participants. I particularly liked how the session I participated in combined the national historical perspective with local responses and local experiences. A local First Nation Chief spoke about his community and the removal of resources from their land and a Shingwauk Residential School Survivor shared their experience at Shingwauk as part of the exercise’s narrative.
Given the potentially triggering nature of the content health and cultural support was available throughout the event and the scripted portion of the exercise was followed by a sharing circle which allowed participants an opportunity to reflect on the exercise and discuss the experience. Overall I think this is a great teaching tool that should be brought into more classrooms, community centers, and university campuses as a way of talking about history, ongoing inequality, and reconciliation.
For the past number of years I’ve been managing the Activehistory.ca social media accounts, namely Twitter and Facebook. Since the fall I’ve also been managing Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts for my work.
The accounts are somewhat different in nature. The Active History accounts are primarily used to promote new website content, so I don’t have to be overly creative in my posts other than writing captions, pulling quotes, or selecting accompanying images. On the other hand the archives social media accounts are pretty wide open – they can cover ongoing projects, events, draw attention to digitized content, and basically anything else I can think of.
In both cases I’ve found a few different ways to make the process more manageable:
- Schedule content. In the case of Facebook and Tumblr you can pick the time and date of posts and schedule them in advance. I find this a huge help, it lets me put together posts when I have the time and have them appear later on at appropriate intervals. For twitter I tend to use TweetDeck to manage content, and that platform also has a scheduling feature.
- Hashtags are your friends. Hashtags connect new audiences to your content. Andrea Eidinger recently wrote a great summary of hashtags for Canadian historians if you’re interested in learning more.
- Theme days are also your friends. #MinitureMonday, #TinyTuesday, #WordlessWednesday, #InternationalBookDay, #Caturday etc are all easy ways to promote existing content on a regular basis while attaching your organization to a larger social media movement.
- Take photographs of what you’re doing and share them. Photographs of events, new donations, processing, and photographs of all that day-today work GLAM professionals do can be a way to provide a behind the scenes look at your organization and also explain to people what work actually goes on in an archive.
- Start collecting content for future posts. Most GLAM organizations have a lot of existing digitized content that is great for sharing on social media. If you come across interesting photographs, letters, books etc make a reference of them or save a copy for future use on social media. This is an easy way to build up a backlog of ideas that you can pull from for future posts.
- Don’t be afraid to try different things. Experiment with what days and times you post different types of content. Try new hashtags or new approaches to presenting content.
- Use some type of analytics. Many social media platforms come with basic stats built in. But it’s sometimes helpful to add Google Analytics or something similar to the content you’re creating so you can measure how your content is being accessed and used.
Yesterday the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre held it’s first “Rewriting Wikipedia” event aimed at increasing content relating to Indigenous Women on Wikipedia. I’m really happy with how this event turned out. We had about ten participants of varying skill levels and the afternoon was filled with good conversation, ideas, and skill building. Many of the people at the event hadn’t edited Wikipedia before so this was an opportunity to talk about why editing is important and what can be gained by contributing. It was also simply a good outreach event highlighting the range of work that happens in an archive.
I also learned some new things during the session. I tend to primarily use the source editor on Wikipedia but many of the event participants were more comfortable using the visual editor. Working with them and the visual editor gave me a better understanding of the intricacies of using the visual editor for article templates and citations. In between helping people I also spent some time working on a Wikipedia page for Chris Derksen who is an amazing two-spirited Indigenous artist.
We have plans to hold another Rewriting Wikipedia event in the fall, possibly focused on a different topic. We might also run a how-to workshop beforehand open to those who want to learn more before participating in the edit-a-thon. That way there can be a more focused emphasis on skill building in addition to generating content. I’m excited by the range of possibilities that exist with this type of event and the possibilities for grassroots community based history on Wikipedia.
Unprocessed archival donation.
One of the things I’ve been experimenting with adding into my workflow recently is documenting donations as the arrive at the archive. Normally the contextual information, dates, extent etc are captured in a donor form and this information is further expanded on when the material is accessioned. This is fairly standard.
What I’ve been trying to document is what donations physically look like when they arrive at the archive. This partially came from a desire to promote new donations on social media and from an archival instruction perspective. When I provide introduction to archives sessions I always try to include information on the role archivists play in appraisal and the challenges of arrangement. Having photographs of what collections look like when they arrive helps provide a visual example of what unprocessed material looks like and what archivists do to get collections ready for public access.
A lot of the work archivists do happens behind the scenes and there’s a general lack of awareness around the amount of work that goes into making archival material accessible. As a profession advocacy and raising awareness of our role is something we could definitely do a better job of. For me one of the ways to do this is to talk about how materials come to us and outline to students the archival process and steps required to get fonds into those neat little labeled boxes.
How do you explain all the work that happens before an archival donation is made accessible to the public?
My most recent post “Digital Outreach and Wikipedia in the GLAM Sector” can be seen over on Activehistory.ca. This post looks at why Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums (GLAM) might engage in Wikipedia editing and different possibilities for GLAM organizations interested in editing Wikipedia as a form of outreach.
Last Friday the Archives Association of British Columbia (AABC) hosted and webcast an “Outreach, Fundraising and Donor Relationships” roundtable. It was a really interesting discussion and I’d recommend anyone interested in outreach and donor relationships watch the recording of the roundtable. The discussion focused on the outreach experiences of the participating archivists, how to build successful outreach programs, the challenges of fundraising, and building “Friends of the Archives” partnerships.
It was interesting to hear about the wide range of outreach programs that have focused on digital outreach including: building social media presences which play on an organizations strength and accept an organization’s staffing limitations; using digitization as the basis to encourage community building; using social media to stay relevant and in the minds of the local community; and using digital initiatives to highlight the capacity of archives to care for donations.
The discussion also touched on the role of education of as a form of outreach. I found the example of UBC’s integration of archival literacy instruction into first year courses particularly interesting. I think there is a definite need for instruction to be integrated into history programs at earlier points and getting students into the archives early can be beneficial to the archives and provide valuable skills which students can use throughout their university career.
In contrast the roundtable also included a discussion of outreach activities aimed at children and the general public. I think a lot of great points were made about thinking creatively, bringing archival collections into public spaces, and the need to make archives interesting. So in the case of children providing tactile learning opportunities or working with visual examples can be a stepping stone to introduce the idea of archives.
Over the past couple of years I’ve really enjoyed working with elementary and high school students and coming up with creative ways to present archival material in an accessible way. As an example as part of Grade 11 days I created an activity which used reproductions of site photographs of the Shingwauk Residential School/Algoma University. The activity had students arrange the photographs from oldest to newest and taught about the changing landscape and usage of the site. It was a short but fun activity that allowed for a glimpse into the archives. I’ve re-purposed this exercise a few times for visiting classes and it has served as a stepping stone for larger historical conversations.
Last most the Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) of the Society of American Archivists launched ArchivesAware a site deigned for those engaged in archival work to share experiences and ideas around raising public awareness of archives.
The blog has just started but so far the content has been promising and has showcased a number of interesting outreach projects. Featured projects so far include a archival instruction videos created using LEGO and stop-motion video, an emerging comic focused on archives, and a look at an archives use of Tumblr to promote their collection and raise awareness about what archives do. I look forward to see what other projects are showcased in coming months – there are lot of innovative and creative outreach projects out there in archives land and it’s great to see a professional organization taking the initiative to highlight this work.
The site is open to submissions of “Features” or short “Highlights” and welcomes non-traditional mediums for more details and how to submit click here.
A weeks end look back at some of the archives, public history, and library world readings that I’ve been pondering on this week.
Gender in Libraries:
- “If You Give a Librarian A Cookie” a great post by Dani Brecher Cook on the gendered work, the challenges of letting gender expectations control actions, and the need to find balance between doing traditionally gendered work you enjoy and being seen as a professional.
- “Knausgaard Writes Like a Women” An interesting piece on gendered writing and the idea that you can tell if someone is male or female based on their style of prose. Link found via Allana Mayer (@alanaaaaaaa) and her thoughtful twitter discussion of gender in LIS
Outreach in Academic Libraries and Archives
I’ve been thinking about different ways to promote university archives in engaging, informal, and low costs ways.
- An older post on the Mr Library Dude Blog on general outreach initiatives at the UW-Green Bay Library is about general outreach at the UW-Green Bay library.
- The slideshow is worth looking at, particularly for the linked videos within it. I particularly enjoyed the video of the edible books contest they held as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations.
- I’ve also started looking at institutional twitter and Instagram accounts. Do you have a favourite archives or special collections social media account? Is there an institution that does a particularly good job of promoting their collections through social media? Is it worth the effort?